“And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.”
It is very interesting to me that Humbert ultimately believes that his novel is “the only immortality” he and Lolita will share. It’s true, to some degree, that Lolita provides a form of immortality for these characters. After all, the book has remained relevant years after its publication. But, we must ask ourselves, what is the price of Humbert and Lolita’s immortality? No doubt, loss of life is a steep cost, but Humbert the artist is more concerned with memorializing Lolita in her childlike form.
“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By feigned remoteness in the windowpane.” (131-132)
Through what power earned I this skill
To discern, delight, and delude–to thrill.
Unawares, I cannot gauge
Have I not unparalleled ability to transcend this artist’s cage?
“I had a brain, five senses (one unique),” (133).
“The exquisite melody of the two lines opening the poem is picked up here. The repetition of that long-drawn note is saved from monotony by the subtle variation in line 132 where the assonance between its second word and the rhyme gives the ear a kind of languorous pleasure as would the echo of some half-remembered sorrowful song whose strain is more meaningful than its words” (p 135). The following four lines harken back to the poem’s statement: “For we are most artistically caged” (114) since Shade delights in his authorial ability while acknowledging the limitations of the poetic form.
On Page 69, at the end of Chapter 16, Humbert describes the interior of Lolita’s bedroom. He notes “a colored ad” that depicts “a distinguished playwright…solemnly smoking a Drome” (69). While the image above does not depict Quilty or “a distinguished playwright,” it stands out to me as representative of the American culture which Lolita rips out of magazines and posts on her wall.
“But then perhaps” (Cincinnatus began to write rapidly on a sheet of ruled paper) “I am misinterpreting…Attributing to the epoch…This wealth…Torrents…Fluid transitions…And the world really never was…Just as…But how can these ruminations help my anguish? Oh, my anguish–what shall I do with you, with myself? How dare they conceal from me…I, who must pass through an ordeal of supreme pain, I, who, in order to preserve a semblance of dignity (anyway I shall not go beyond silent pallor–I am no hero anyway…), must during that ordeal keep control of all my faculties, I, I…am gradually weakening…the uncertainty is horrible–well, why don’t you tell me, do tell me–but no, you have me die anew every morning…On the other hand, were I to know, I could perform…a short work…a record of verified thoughts…
-VN, Invitation to a Beheading, p 51
“Luzhin senior, the Luzhin who wrote books, often thought of how his son would turn out. Through his books (and they all, except for a forgotten novel called Fumes, were written for boys, youths and high school students and came in sturdy colorful covers) there constantly flitted the image of a fair-haired lad, ‘headstrong,’ ‘brooding,’ who later turned into a violinist or a painter, without losing his moral beauty in the process” (Nabokov 25).
I am interested in the character of Frau Monde from Nabokov’s short story “A Nursery Tale.” Although Frau Monde is the devil, she is lighthearted and has a sense of humor. When explaining the rules of her so-called game with Erwin, she says, “I intend, before going, to have a bit of innocent fun” (Nabokov 164). Furthermore, although Erwin fails to select an odd number of women at the end of the story, Frau Monde apparently lets him off the hook, so to speak, although Erwin still feels miserable and depressed. I find Nabokov’s depiction of the devil peculiar and somewhat sympathetic. Like John Milton in Paradise Lost, Nabokov, I suppose, could be a writer of the devil’s party.